Both teams are 0-2 in the Ivy League so far. Both teams' losses have come to Princeton and Cornell, currently the fifth- and sixth-ranked teams in the latest USILA national poll. In both cases, the Tigers' win came by a goal. Both Penn and Yale are on the fringe of that poll, with the Bulldogs actually dropping out of it from last week.
The end of Saturday's game will mark the midway point of the conference season for both squads. Which one will reach that point with the upper hand toward earning a berth in the Ivy's inaugural four-team postseason tournament?
The Bulldogs lead the series, 45-26, but the series has been very close the last several years. Last season, in Philadelphia, Yale eked out a 14-13 overtime victory. That snapped a three-game win streak by Penn, including a 9-7 decision the last time these teams met in New Haven, in 2008. In 2007, the Quakers won 10-9 in double overtime.
Around the Ivy League
Saturday is a big day of Ivy League lacrosse in New England, as all six teams that play league games do so in that region. While Penn and Yale face off at 1:30 in New Haven, the other four will be meeting at Gillette Stadium as part of the New England Lacrosse Classic in Foxboro, Mass. In the noon opener, Cornell (2-0) plays Dartmouth (0-1); following that, at approximately 2:30, Princeton (2-0) takes on Brown (1-0). Harvard (1-1) is out of league this weekend, hosting Duke Friday at 7.
Saturday's game is the first half of a weekend doubleheader for the Bulldogs (4-2), as they also host Detroit Mercy on Sunday. Yale started the season 4-0, but fell out of the USILA national poll this week following a 7-6 loss to Princeton on Saturday. Prior to that, the Bulldogs lost to Cornell, 18-7. Matt Gibson leads Yale in all three scoring categories with 12 goals, nine assists and 21 points. Brian Douglass (11-4--15), Brendan Gibson (10-5--15) and Matt Fuchs (6-5--11) are the other players who have reached double digits in points. In goal, Jonathan Falcone has played all but 18 minutes; he has a 9.11 goals-against average and a .458 save percentage.
*IN THE NATIONAL STATS (TEAM): Penn is sixth nationally in man-up offense (.515 success), 18th in shot percentage (.313), and 21st in assists per game (6.44).
*IN THE NATIONAL STATS (INDIVIDUAL): Justin Lynch entered the week sixth in ground balls per game (7.00); Corey Winkoff was 20th in assists per game (1.78).
*All of Penn's five losses have come to teams currently ranked in the USILA's Top 10 (No. 4 Maryland, No. 5 Princeton, No. 6 Cornell, No. 7 Duke, No. 10 Lafayette).
*Penn's four-game win streak before these last three losses was its longest since the 2006 team opened the season with six wins en route to an NCAA Championship bid.
*Penn had just four goalscorers against Cornell; prior to that, the Quakers had at least six different goalscorers in seven of their first eight games.
*Penn's lack of success offensively against Cornell could also be demonstrated by the fact that four of the Quakers' top five scorers this season did not collect a point against the Big Red.
*Winkoff (Penn's leading scorer with 25 points) had a 16-game point-scoring streak broken last weekend against Cornell; prior to that, he had recorded two 2-point games, three 3-point games, and three 4-point games this season.
*The leading assist man for Penn since he arrived on campus, Winkoff has 59 dishes for his career; he needs two to crack the program's all-time Top 10.
*Senior Rob McMullen, who entered this season with nine collegiate goals, has scored at least two goals in six of Penn's nine games and leads the Quakers with 15 goals.
*Sophomore John Conneely is second on the team in assists (10) and points (20). He had a six-game point-scoring streak snapped vs. Cornell, but has recorded at least two points in seven of Penn's nine games.
*Junior Al Kohart is second on the team in goals (13) and third in points (18); however, the MVP of the DU Face-Off Classic has just two points in Penn's last four games.
*After his career-best three-goal performance last weekend, sophomore Dan Savage now has 17 points (10g, 7a) and a five-game point-scoring streak.
*Sophomore Will Amling has scored in six different games this season.
*Freshman Rob Fitzpatrick has a five-game point-scoring streak -- 9g, 1a during that time -- and 14 points overall (11g, 3a); he is Penn's top-scoring newcomer.
*After scoring just one goal combined in his sophomore and junior seasons, senior Chris Harms has two goals as well as one assist this season.
*Sophomore Tim Schwalje entered the Princeton game with two career points (1g, 1a), but has racked up five assists against the Tigers and Cornell in the last two contests.
*Freshman Greg Ives has a goal (vs. Cornell) and an assist (at Princeton) in the last two games.
*Senior tri-captain Joe Kelly leads Penn with seven caused turnovers and is second on the team with 28 ground balls.
*Senior Joe Kelly has eight caused turnovers to lead Penn, while classmate Tommy Dodge has seven. Three other players -- seniors Brendan Saxon and Brett Hughes, and sophomore Will Koshansky -- have six apiece.
*After Lynch (63), Kelly is second on the team in ground balls with 28; Saxon (15) is third, followed by Hughes (12).
*Senior Chris Casey has started eight games in goal, compiling a 10.57 goals-against average and a .509 save percentage; in six of the last seven games, he has split halves in the cage with sophomore Joe Hegener (9.08 GAA, .492 save percentage). Last weekend against Cornell, Hegener started, and Casey came in for the second half.
Quoting Coach Murphy
"I think there will be a couple of factors on Saturday. One is obviously facoffs; possession is big. Yale has a good faceoff guy, but we think Justin is pretty good, too. We have been working on our wing play, and I think we'll be helped by the fact that Brian Jackson is coming back from injury and can give us more depth on the X."
"Shot selection will be another area. Yale has some guys who can really sling it, so we need to get them to settle for outside shots and then we need to make the saves on those. At the other end, we need to deal with their pressure and create high-percentage opportunities."
"It would be great to get the win; it would make us 1-2 in the league. We don't talk with the guys about the implications of these games, we talk about getting better. I know it's going to sound a little cliché, but we think it's important to focus on what's closest. Right now, that's Yale."